A Race Worth Running

by Sylvia Dickson

They pressed in on one another at the starting line, waiting for the second when theyKids run1 yellow rose copy could burst forth and begin the race.

And they’re off! Zooming past me in a whir, I see looks of intensity on each face, the excitement and energy pushing each runner onward.

A few minute later, I begin to see runners headed to the finish line, making each arm pump and leg stride count. Some are definitely loosing speed while others are stretching to win.

boy with shoeA few are having to overcome unforeseen obstacles, but their spirit is good. Others, having completed the race, rush back to encourage friends to keep on going. Still others are being carried across the finish line.

What a sight! The Kids’ Run at Camp of the Rising Son’s annual Run for the Son was the highlight of my day. Their Making the effort was enough to fill my emotional bucket, much less the delight the runners showed at being a part of the event.

Something Wonderful

Isn’t it wonderful to be part of something big and good? One of our seniors told me how much she enjoyed being part of the drama productions. She said, Even though I was backstage, I loved being part of something good.grad2

God’s kingdom is big and good. That God loves us and gave His Son so our sins could be forgiven fills my emotional bucket forever. Not only that, His race is worth running because the prize at the end is perfect.

goofy runner In It Together

We are not alone. Many others have run the race, laying aside whatever hinders, focusing on the goal, and helping others along the way. Now it is our turn. We are the runners and the encouragers.

How do we encourage? We tell our young people at FCA to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Romans 12:2a). We are here to strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed (Romans 12:12-13).

CheersHigh Jump

French Camp Academy is preparing young people to run the race well. We show them the track, make them aware of the obstacles, nurture them with good spiritual food, give them the tools they need, and we run alongside them, cheering them on the way. Sometimes they out run us (Yea!), and other times we pick them up and carry them until they can run on their own.

Our strength comes from Jesus who has finished the race and is sitting at the right hand of the Father. We know that He will carry us through and the race will have been worth it.

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Everything’s Coming Up Roses?

By Sylvia Dickson

The box blade dug into theDYlan bending over crop lawn, removing the green grass and revealing deep, rich, brown soil underneath. The smell of freshly turned earth brought back memories of youth and running barefoot…of digging into flowerbeds for worms that would be forfeited (hopefully) to the hungry mouth of a bass in my grandmother’s pond.

My brothers and sister and I played softball in the front yard, or dribbled the basketball on the dirt court under the goal. Nothing fancy, just designated spaces for fun and games. But mother’s rose bushes were off limits, and we respected that. (Also, the thorns were not very pleasant).boy with bat

We could see those roses from our breakfast room, where we ate most of our meals. When they bloomed we would oooh and aaah at how pretty they were. And since this was before hybrids had taken away the sweet aromas, we could inhale the heavenly scents as we passed by. Carefully cutting them and placing them into vases was a special treat. Simple and sweet.

Many of our young people at French Camp have not known the simple fun of childhood…they have not known childhood. They have lived in places where innocence and wonder were tucked out of sight.

I think of one group of students who came to Rose Laura Bush copy2 copyFCA many years ago—in the 1980’s. One of them recently married and is serving the Lord. When he came to us he was 4 years old, not old enough for kindergarten. He and his brothers, along with other children, came from the inner city of New York City. Their childhoods had been spent in apartments, on sidewalks, and on building stoops. Places where no grass grew, much less roses.

On the drive they had exclaimed about the trees, deer, streams, and sounds of the birds. When they arrived at our beautiful campus they were filled with wonder and awe because they could see grass…touch the grass…smell the grass…roll in the grass.Hayden with grass stains

The flowers Miss M grew in her garden soon filled grubby little hands and were brought joyfully to her. She graciously placed these love offerings into Mason jars, vases, and tin cans. For this little boy and his group, everything was coming up roses. The wonder and innocence of childhood was being renewed.

running hardWhat about other children whose childhoods are shattered? Can the shards be put back together?

YES! These lives will always be scarred and scratched, but they can be renewed. These precious vases can be mended to hold the delicate and aromatic beauty of roses through the kindness of God, lived out through His people.

We’ve seen God’s work at French Camp Academy for over 130 years.girls hugging He takes the broken pieces of lives in His hands and restores them with loving patience. Through the hands and hearts of other broken vessels, He pours His spirit into precious children. He placed them here and He lives here in His people in order to mend the broken jars that will hold the roses of His grace.

Everything IS coming up roses!

Got ‘Cha

By Sylvia Dickson

The young man had been busily raking leaves into a large pile. As he worked he sang boy rakingMy God Is an Awesome God using each stroke of the rake to keep time. He caught my shadow out of the corner of his eye and turned to look at me with a startled expression.

“Hey,” I said. “I like the way you’re working, and the singing, too.”

“Uhhh, thank you,” he replied.

I could tell he was somewhat embarrassed so I said, “Keep up the good work,” and turned to leave. As I walked away I could hear him again start working and singing.

Got’cha!girls with plant

It’s great to catch someone doing well. It’s great to say encouraging words. And, it’s great to tell other people about it.

Each evening in the FCA dining hall we have a time of announcements, scripture, and prayer. Part of this includes our own version of “tweeting.” Quick snippets of recognition for doing a job well or going the extra mile are announced. Or, projects are pointed out: take a look at the beautiful new flower bed that Nancy and Felicia helped Mrs. N with; the guys at Taylor Home helped clean up elderly Mr. P’s house.

Work crew at Buddy & Barbara's webAnd so it goes.

Got’cha.

The French Camp work program was started in the 1950’s by Sam Patterson, FCA president. He knew the value of work superseded the physical result. The moral effect of a job well done and recognition for it permeates and transforms a person’s self-view. It even can transform his world view.

Let’s look at one student. Let’s say he arrived at FCA feeling worthless and ashamed. No one expected him to do anything worthwhile. His grades were bad and his behavior was ruled by anger and fear.sorghum mill

Let’s say he’s assigned to the grounds work crew. At first he knows nothing about taking care of things, much less serving others. At first his mowing leaves streaks in the lawn and his weed eater always jams. But his work supervisor teaches him how to mow, use the weed eater, check the oil, clean, and properly store the equipment.

After a while, he looks at the well-mown lawn, edged sidewalks, and manicured flowerbeds with pride. What started out as drudgery has turned to delight, and his supervisor gives him a great big Attaboy.

Susan copyGot’cha.

Now he can point to something he has accomplished and has an awareness that he can do something right and good. So, what else might he do? Maybe he can do better in school. Maybe he can control his temper. Maybe, just maybe, he can help someone else.

Maybe one day he can say, Got’cha, to another student doing something well.

Milestones

by Erin Ulerich

The graduation invitation came in the mail, mixed with bills and sales papers, as if it were an ordinary piece of paper, as if it didn’t carry the weight of a decade. When I Dylanopened the envelope memories rushed in. The invitation was from a student that came to French Camp Academy our first year on staff.

We were new to French Camp, with an 18 month old and an infant. My husband, Stephen, was training to become the Plant and Property Manager and decided to sub for a Junior High boys’ dorm one night a week.

3 boysOne of the boys in that dorm took special delight in aggravating my husband, especially during study hall, when all was supposed to be calm and quiet.

“Remember, you’re the adult. He’s the kid.” I would try to encourage Stephen when he called to let me know how the evening was going.

Over the years, the aggravating turned into friendly sparring and settled into friendship. This boy, now a young man, is graduating from college, with eyes toward graduate school.

Yes, the significance of that invitation stretches across the years.

This looks like fun copyWeeks later another invitation arrived. This one was a wedding invitation from a young lady that came to FCA during High School. I smiled, remembering her first year here. For a semester she and another student helped me each afternoon after school. At that point, I had a 2 year old, a 1 year old and a baby on the way. I remember listening to the girls talk one afternoon as they helped me chop carrots for baby food.

“I want kids one day, but I don’t really want a husband.”

“Yeah, I know.” The other student nodded. “I just want to give my attention to my kids and not have to worry about a man.”

As I got to know the girls, I learned that both of them were being raised by single momsgraduation 1 and had no relationship with their dads. Any man that came into the picture was seen as a competitor, diverting their mom’s attention. This was their “normal.” They had never seen a marriage in action.

But this young lady stayed at French Camp throughout her high school years and got to know some of the families here and see husbands and wives working together as a team. And now, after graduating from college, she is enthusiastically choosing marriage.

These milestones remind me that students come to FCA and over the years, they really do grow up. While they are here they are surrounded by adults who sincerely want to see them succeed. The staff are here primarily because they want to point students to DSC_0872the hope of life found in Christ. A by-product of that is showing them how that hope transforms and guides all aspects of life. This can’t be done through programs or lectures. It is done through living side by side on our small campus, through seasons of both aggravation and relationship building.

It is an honor to celebrate these milestones, knowing that they represent years of choices these students made to change the “normal” of their life experiences. They are building a beautiful legacy for their future families and we are here to cheer them on.

Bless Their Hearts

by Sylvia Dickson

Teaching and Training: Boys Growing Into Men

The transformation was quick. A quiet afternoon suddenly shattered around her as boisterous boys shouted their arrival home from school. Mrs. Boys’ Dorm Mom met the onslaught with hugs, laughter, and snacks.

Across campus, a gaggle of girls raced to their rooms to unload their backpacks, hurrying back to tell about their day (classes, tests, friendship crises) and dive into their snacks. Mrs. Girls’ Dorm Mom was ready to serve and feed them, emotionally as well as physically.

FCA brings smiles to girls.

Later that evening, dorm moms and dads gathered their “children” for a devotion and prayer. Afterwards was the time of delay before bedtime. Bless their hearts….no racing, skipping or shouting as they headed to bed. Feet dragging down the hall; I need some water; I’m not sleepy; etc.

An uncertain peace settled over the campus of French Camp Academy. Which child would emerge from his room to talk through painful times, looking for reassurance and value. Would someone quietly tug on an arm and ask, “Why hasn’t my mom called?” Or, maybe we’ll hear, “I just wanted to tell you I love you.”

God placed in our hearts a profound need to be loved and valued. That need can only be filled by God through Jesus Christ. After filling our need, we are given the joyful opportunity of pointing others to Christ—of blessing hearts for eternity.

girl thinking about healing

Bless their hearts, O Lord, we pray.  Keep them safe, both night and day.  Guide them, Jesus, through the night,  And wake them with the morning light.

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FCA: Different in the Best Way

by Stephen Korpi, FCA teacher/coach

Korpi, Stephen1

Before coming to FCA, I taught in several public schools in TN. I am now going into my 3rd year on staff at FCA. I started out as activities director and JH math teacher and then began coaching basketball and tennis my 2nd year.

I truly enjoy teaching and coaching my students. One of the greatest changes in teaching at FCA from public school is that I am not only allowed to tell the Gospel of Christ, but encouraged to do it each lesson. One of the highlights of my day is the privilege of doing devotions with my students each class and practice. This is what I love most about my job.

Watkins runningAnother thing different about teaching here is that you are better able to build relationships with the students. At public schools you might see them one hour in a day and never again, but here you live in their world.

I have found that when you are able to build relationships with students, it is then that you can really mentor them—and they will listen to you! I am learning to have fun with the students and laugh with them more, and when the serious times come, I am able to be used of God and speak Truth into their lives.

A complete new thing here to me is the way discipline is done. I have never seen Drivin' 'round copydiscipline done in such a loving way. It is done in love, truly for the interest of the student to grow them into a person of good character. God loves those He disciplines. Through the close, caring, godly relationships of the staff and students, the students see that we want the best for them.

Another difference from teaching in a public school is I am blessed to be surrounded with a Christian staff. I am so thankful to know I have coworkers praying with and for me. I’ve never had a better administration— leaders who love and mentor me. I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow in my faith just by watching and living with more mature Christians around me as they allow themselves to be used of God.

Katy, Octavious, Farida copyAnother thing about staff and students living as neighbors, is you always have ministry opportunities available. When I feel the slightest bit bored or lonely, I head to the guys’ side of campus and hang out with the students. The kids love it when staff will get out and play games with them—and I am thankful that I am young enough to enjoy it! I am able to do things I love and minister at the same time—basketball, tennis, swimming, frisbee, biking, table tennis, etc.

Many times I feel like I am the one who is being blessed by being here. It is One Fine Place.

For information of admissions, policies, and how you can partner with FCA, contact Lance Ragsdale at (662) 547-6482, or visit our website, www.frenchcamp.org.

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Child

a poem by Holly M. Bol, FCA staff member

Child, what are you holding on to? Child, I want to know. 1grace in purple hatChild I want you to tell Me. And then, I want you to let it go.

Set it down. Walk away. My precious child.

Don’t you know your name?

Your name is Free. Forgiven. Chosen and Divine.

1boy & girl with ballChild, your name is Holy, Pure, Precious.

And You’re Mine.

Your name is Called.

Oh yes, that’s true. I’m calling Your name.

I’m calling You!

So rise up my child. Come to Me.

Rise up my child.

I have set you Free! 1students  (5) copy

To walk in the light and not the shadow of shame.

To stand up tall.

Now break off those chains the bondage, destruction, dark and despair.

They no longer hold you, I have freed you from there.

1boy on horseYou are worth it.

You are mighty.

You are blessed and redeemed.

Precious and Holy, Pure and Clean.

So answer my call.

Hear my voice.

I’m calling your name.

You have a choice to come running to Me. Please, don’t run away.

1pottery shop girl

In the shadow of My wing Is where you’re welcome to stay.

I am your protector, Your Father, Your comforter, and friend.

I am your champion, supporter, Everlasting, end to end.

I am your guardian, Your strength, Your warrior, and your might.

I am Your sun your moon Your day and your night.

1Kate copyaI am your white your black, All colors between.

I am the most brilliant of pictures.

I am the unseen.

I am your story, your song,

I am where you belong.

I am your Father, your God, your Savior, and friend.

I am your everything–that is who I am.

Alpha, Omega, Beginning, and End.

So child again I ask what are you carrying? 1guy holding young girl

It’s too big for you. Will you consider sharing?

Hand it to me, I’ll take good care.

Hand it to me, now take a rest over there Under that shady spot–the one under my wing.

Take a nap and over you, I will sing.

For my child is back. My child is home.

This Father is rejoicing because you’re no longer alone.

Come to me, child.

Just come to me.

Come to me, child.

I will set you free